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So You Want to Study on an Island. But Which One?

Most people occasionally fantasize about escaping reality and embracing life on a remote island. However, while the word “island” may initially bring to mind thoughts of coconuts, thatched tiki huts, and tropical drinks with colorful paper parasols, this is just a single portrayal of the world’s islands and island life. When it comes to higher education, for example, islands offer a refreshingly diverse range of options for international students willing to think outside-the-box and off-of-the-mainland. Let’s count down four island destinations worth considering for your study abroad adventure.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Study Abroad
So You Want to Study on an Island. But Which One?

Most people occasionally fantasize about escaping reality and embracing life on a remote island. However, while the word “island” may initially bring to mind thoughts of coconuts, thatched tiki huts, and tropical drinks with colorful paper parasols, this is just a single portrayal of the world’s islands and island life. When it comes to higher education, for example, islands offer a refreshingly diverse range of options for international students willing to think outside-the-box and off-of-the-mainland. Let’s count down four island destinations worth considering for your study abroad adventure.

1. Hong Kong

Hong Kong city skyline view from Kowloon

Located just south of mainland China, Hong Kong comprises 733 kilometers of coastline and more than 200 islands, including Hong Kong Island and Lantau. This bustling city known for its breathtaking skyline, East-meets-West sensibility, and stunning natural beauty is truly like no other.

As an international finance center, Hong Kong draws people from all over the world to study, work and live. Its universities are top-notch in Asia, and also highly competitive on the global stage thanks to a commitment to research and innovation. In fact, Hong Kong has earned a top 10 spot on INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index.

With Chinese and English sharing official language status and English offered as the teaching medium in most academic settings, a Hong Kong education is remarkably accessible. Hoping to hone your Chinese skills? There are plenty of formal and informal opportunities for that, too.

One of the most amazing things about studying in Hong Kong is its abundance of scholarship programs. While the competition for funding is competitive, there are many different types and kinds of awards designated for international students -- both through individual universities and the government.

2. Corsica

corsica, porto area : evisa village

If you’re looking for a truly “best of both worlds” international study experience, look no further than Corsica, located just west of the Italian peninsula, north of Sardinia, and southeast of France. The Mediterranean’s fourth-largest island, Corsica’s rich history comprises both Italian and French influences -- it is currently under French ownership, but its people largely identify with themselves as Corsicans -- resulting in a completely unique here and now. And did we mention that Corsica lays claim to one of history’s most famous military leaders? Napoleon Bonaparte was born here in 1769.

Home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, lush vineyards producing world-renowned wines found only on the island, and a laid-back vibe which can make even the most rigorous studies feel like a holiday, Corsica is also a desirable destination for outdoor enthusiasts. After all, how many other islands play host to a hiking trail-packed park comprising just under half of its entire landmass?

While English is becoming more prevalent here, French and Corsican are most common. Expect to take a French level exam before matriculating in Corsica, although proficiency tests may not be required for Erasmus and Crepuq students.

3. Hawaii

View on Na Pali Cost on Kauai island on Hawaii

Located 2,000 miles off the U.S.’s southwestern coast, this Polynesian archipelago is one of the world’s most coveted destinations thanks to its combination of natural beauty consisting of everything from white sand beaches and dense rainforests to vibrant coral reefs and looming volcanoes; rich heritage; and fascinating culture.

And while Hawaii may best fit the bill when it comes to fulfilling your tropical paradise fantasies, its comprehensive higher education opportunities are equally enticing. With more than 90 percent of the island’s native animals and plants found only in Hawaii, the island makes a particularly fascinating place for students pursuing natural sciences degrees. While the cost of living is relatively high in Hawaii, many of its universities offer plentiful scholarship, internships, and other financial aid options aimed at facilitating international exchange.

Aside from premier educational opportunities in a welcoming and one-of-a-kind setting, Hawaii is known not only for its quality of life, but also its quantity: the state boasts the longest life expectancy found anywhere in the U.S.

4. Tasmania

The Bay of Fires (indigenous name: larapuna) is a bay on the nor

You’re not alone if the word “devil” comes to mind when you first hear the word “Tasmania.” However, this Australian state has much more to offer than carnivorous cartoon marsupials. Students seeking an Australian experience with a twist are sure to find it here on this island located just south of Australia's mainland within 50 minutes from Melbourne and and hour and half from Sydney. Clean air, pure water, and accessible wilderness all help earn Tasmania its status as a favorite vacation spot.

While Tasmania may be remote, it’s also a surprisingly modern environment in which to live and learn. Take the University of Tasmania (UTAS). Not only has it earned top marks in teaching, research and internationalization, it also lays claim to state-of-the-art facilities, a commitment to practical learning, and generous scholarship schemes for both domestic and international students. Financially, Tasmania is also a deal thanks to the combination of affordable quality of life and low tuition fees.

One thing all islands have in common -- aside from being surrounded by water, that is? They offer a completely different perspective than life on the mainland. The result? They’re ideal destinations for international students in search of truly different perspectives.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.